It's Your Health
Food is an important part of many holiday celebrations. You can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness for your family and friends during the holiday season by following some basic food safety tips.
Foodborne illness ("food poisoning") is caused by eating food contaminated with certain bacteria, viruses or parasites. Examples of disease-causing organisms include Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes. These bacteria are sometimes found in or on the following:
Since these foods are often part of the menu at many holiday meals and parties (e.g., cheese, fruit and vegetable platters, seafood, turkey, tourtiŔre, baked goods, eggnog and cider), it is a good idea to take extra care when preparing, cooking, serving and storing food during the holiday season.
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Most people recover completely from foodborne illness, but some groups are at greater risk of serious health effects, like kidney problems and even death. The groups at greater risk are young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
There are four basic steps you should always follow to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness:
Clean: Wash hands, contact surfaces (like kitchen counters) and utensils often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Separate: Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
Cook: Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking foods to the proper internal temperature.
Chill: Keep cold foods cold. Bacteria can grow rapidly when food is allowed to sit in the so-called danger zone: between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F).
Raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria, so you should not eat uncooked cookie dough, batters or frostings made with raw fresh eggs. Remember, young children are at greater risk for foodborne illness, so they should not be allowed to "lick the spoon" if the dough, batter or frosting contains any raw egg ingredients. Make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly.
Store-bought eggnog is pasteurized and does not require heating to kill harmful bacteria. If you are making eggnog at home, you should:
If you are making drinks with fresh fruit juices or cider, check the label to see if the product has been pasteurized. If the juice or cider is not pasteurized or if you are uncertain, you can minimize risks by boiling the product to make sure it is safe for everyone.
Some people enjoy certain raw seafood items, like oysters and sushi during their holiday festivities. However, raw seafood may carry bacteria, parasites or viruses that can cause food poisoning. People who are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness, such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems, should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.
Cook stuffing separately in the oven in its own dish, or on the stove top, to a minimum internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF). If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff it loosely just before roasting, and remove all stuffing right after cooking.
Home-prepared products in oil, like herbs, garlic or peppers, are popular as gift items during the holiday season. However, for foods like this to be safe and healthy, they must be prepared and stored properly.
For commercially-prepared foods stored in oil, check the label. If the list of ingredients includes salt and/or acids, these products have been preserved and do not present a risk of food poisoning, as long as you follow directions for storage (e.g., refrigerate after opening and between each use).
If you are serving food buffet-style, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots to keep hot foods hot. Keep cold foods cold by putting serving trays on crushed ice. If food remains at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it away.
Also, do not add new food to serving dishes that are already in use. Instead, use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet.
Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods like cut vegetables, candies, chips, nachos and nuts should have serving tools to prevent contamination between guests.
As always, keep hot foods hot (at or above 60°C / 140°F) and cold foods cold (at or below 4°C / 40°F). Transport hot food in insulated containers with hot packs or wrapped in foil and heavy towels. Transport cold food in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada sets policies and standards for the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforces these policies and standards, and makes sure that necessary warnings are released quickly to Canadians.
As a founding member of the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, Health Canada also participates in public awareness campaigns about safe food practices.
For more information visit the following websites:
For more information on Food Safety visit the following websites:
For safety information about food, health and consumer products visit the Safe Consumers website
For more articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health web section
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Updated: December 2010
Original: November 2004
ęHer Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2010